In September, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra musicians, members of Local 16-248 (Newark/Paterson, NJ), ratified a one-year side-letter agreement that runs retroactively from September 1, 2020 through August 31, 2021.
Under terms of the new side letter, weekly base pay and paid health insurance remains the same, with a 40% reduction in the number of orchestra services, vacation pay cut from 21 days to 14 days, and a freeze on hiring two open positions within the orchestra. The symphony may schedule either in-person or virtual services, but musicians at high risk for COVID-19 may elect to participate in virtual services only. Alternatively, any musician may opt to take the full year or a portion of the year as a “COVID Sabbatical.”
The Orchestra Committee attempted to achieve a contract extension beyond the 2021-22 season but did not receive cooperation from management. Musicians have been frustrated with the symphony’s handling of challenges resulting from the pandemic. Beginning in June, musicians received no payments for 25 services that had been scheduled for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, and salary reductions that management originally proposed for the 2020-21 season would have brought compensation to less than 50% of normal rates.